Awarding the Women Leaders of Kenya

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In August 2015, Women and Girls Lead Kenya launched the Women in the Red Leadership Awards, putting out a call for nominations to partners in 27 counties across the country. They were looking for the seldom-told stories of women and girls leading their communities towards change. Selected from over 70 nominations, the finalists varied from 14-year-old peer educator and reproductive health advocate Serah Mwakali Mulwa, to 53-year-old Beatrice Kimani, a peace mobilizer and advocate in Burnt Forest, risking her life to take a stand against ethnic conflict. The stories of the nominees were those of courage, resilience, innovation and transformation. They are the stories that if told often enough, allow people to believe that change is possible.

That was the hope for this intergenerational, trans-media event in Nairobi in honor of International Day of the Girl. In preparation for the awards, 30 finalists gathered the day before the ceremony to participate in an innovative leadership workshop. With women, girls and male allies of all ages and career levels, the participants were as inspired by each other as they were by the workshop sessions. They learned to tell their own stories – an essential skill for leaders in the public eye – with a powerful session from Roshan Paul of the Amani Institute – a global training collective for social entrepreneurs. They learned how to use mapping as a tool for community development and policy change with Map Your World, a digital tool inspired by Women of the World film The Revolutionary Optimists. Finalists also went home with copies of the Digital Empowerment toolkit from Worldpulse, and a digital security toolkit from Internews, both essential for emerging leaders in the public eye.

The day of the awards, the Women in the Red team, along with lead event partners CARE, Internews and Worldpulse, extended the invitation far beyond the 100 people seated in a banquet hall at Jacaranda Hotel. As “Radio Queen” Kalekye Mumo welcomed guests to the ceremony, anyone across Kenya and around the world could log on to watch and chat live using ITVS’ online screening platform OVEE. Live and online guests enjoyed a moving speech by chief guest Martha Karua, the sole female presidential candidate in Kenya’s last elections. She encouraged all nominees, “You are already a winner, a motivator, a person who inspires.”

Indeed, there were many inspiring and influential women in the room. From CEOs to politicians to leaders from Kenyan and international NGOs, the guest list was certainly impressive. The real guests of honor, however, were the girls and young women representing the future of Kenya’s leadership. Members of Kenya University Female Student Leaders Association and Akili Dada leadership fellows had the opportunity to ask true women role models about their journeys. There was a real sense of mentorship in the room, as finalists and guests alike shared stories, connections, and words of encouragement.

Women and Girls Lead Kenya Coordinator Josephine Karanjahi, with support from the Honorable Martha Karua, was proud to present the awards in front of this remarkable audience of girls, women and their allies.

The event, and the women and girls it honored, have already received significant media attention, and the winners and finalists from Kilifi county were even honored with a Homecoming Party. To read more about the winners, finalists, and Women in the Red campaign’s ongoing work to promote women’s leadership in Kenya, follow Women and Girls Lead – Kenya on Facebook.

The 2015 Women in the Red Leadership awards went to:

  1. Halima SadiqRising Woman in the Red
  2. Hon. Rachel Kamweru – 2/3 Gender Rule Champion
  3. Hon. Teddy Mwambire – Male Champion for Women In Leadership
  4. Grace Lolim – Women in War and Peace
  5. Hon. Gertrude Mbeyu – Women in Public Service
  6. Ann NjoguOutstanding Contribution to Women’s Leadership via Journalism
  7. Mary Mlee – Lifetime Achievement
  8. Irene KendiOutstanding Female Mentor
  9. Pamela Dio – Leader in Land, Climate Change and the Environment
  10. Teresia Njoroge – Outstanding Advocate for Marginalized Groups
  11. Miriam Ngolo – No Limits Breakthrough Leader
  12. Margaret Tawa – Listeners’ Choice Award, Women in the Red Radio Show contest winner

Issues: Girls’ education, child marriage, youth activism